Innovative and inspirational Christian support in South Africa for Israel through WIZO
By Galya Tregenza Hall National Administrator and PA to WIZO SA President
“Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the Lord do to me if anything but death part me from you”.
Ruth 1:16, 17
WIZO South Africa, like all the WIZO Federations around the globe, actively supports and promotes the work of WIZO in Israel through various projects and fundraisers that take place throughout the country. However, unique to the make-up of WIZO SA is a branch of Bnoth Zion WIZO Cape Town that is called the Ruth Branch.
Who are these generous members and what makes them so special?
Over the last five years, Christian Zionist friends have been welcomed into the fold of the WIZO family through the Ruth Branch and what a success it has been! They have become the fastest-growing branch globally and as their chairperson Elizabeth Campbell says:
“We are so thankful that our Jewish sisters have opened up their hearts and given us this amazing opportunity to join hands and work together to support the nation of Israel through WIZO’’. Elizabeth points out that many Christians know and understand that you cannot separate the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. We are living in difficult and unprecedented times but these Ruth Branch members are committed to Israel – just like the widow Ruth would not leave her widowed mother-in-law Naomi’s side, Elizabeth will not leave Israel’s side as she truly feels that this unity of Jew and Gentile together is the key for future success.
Elizabeth is a dynamic and passionate woman who leads her WIZO Ruth Branch with tremendous energy and vision!
Where did it all begin for her?
Her family were farmers and she grew up in a nominal Christian home in the Eastern Cape. She was first introduced to Judaism and Jewish culture through a Jewish friend she made at school. From an early age she would enjoy sleepovers at her friend’s house and subsequently learnt more about Shabbat (the sabbath)and the different chagim (Jewish festivals). At the age of nineteen, her fascination intensified after a surprise holiday to Israel, where on her arrival she was bowled over by an uncontrollable love for the land and its people. So powerful was this ten-day experience, that once back home at art school, she chose JERUSALEM as the theme for one of her projects. Little did she know it was going to stir a hornet’s nest. Her “crime’’ of loving Jerusalem resulted in shocking abuse from her lecturer and it was then that she experienced her first bout of horrendous antisemitism. In Elizabeth’s words:
“I was shocked to the core. After the trauma I heard a voice in my deepest kishkas (in the depths of my soul) and I realized that this was HaShem talking to me – ‘Will you stand up for my people?’.
Little did I know back then what a tremendous calling this would become and nor did I realise all that I was going to have to endure for the love of His people and land. Every moment has been worth it’’.
‘Art’ of Coming Together
About twelve years ago, Elizabeth began to think about how she could get the Jewish people and those Christians like herself who love Israel to work together. She had a vision of the two communities coming together through the arts. The idea of a musical concert popped into her head and suddenly the words ‘JERUSALEM – WOVEN DESTINY CONCERTS’ resonated throughout her being. From that moment, a wonderful journey began.
Elizabeth and her husband Jamie, reached out to their friend, the popular entertainer Erez Shaked, who needed no encouragement to get on board. He too has a heart for oneness and could clearly see the potential and significance in Elizabeth’s revelation. A partnership was formed and the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concert vision started to become a reality.
Twelve years later and with six concerts under their belts, they have most definitely come up with a winning formula to celebrate together through music and song. Two years ago their concert was held at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town and was a resounding success. However, with this years’ concert going virtual, it was possible to reach a much larger audience. The Concert was streamed by the Jewish Report via Zoom and Facebook live and was a beautiful collaboration between the Jewish and Christian communities, with approximately three thousand viewers being reached on the night and to date, thousands more people are still watching the production on YouTube and social media.
Six concerts have been produced and all of them have been musical extravaganzas that have made a deep impression and had a lasting impact. The President of WIZO South Africa, Shelley Trope-Friedman, rightly stated in her welcome address at the concert this year:
“Sadly and most concerningly, we are living in times where we are witnessing a rapid rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric the world over. Therefore, the spirit of unity and cohesion that this concert brings is greatly needed and deeply appreciated. I thank you, our Christian Zionist friends, for partnering with us in the fight against antisemitism and Israel-hatred. This concert is giving a platform to the voice of friendship, love and solidarity and I know that together, we can make a difference.”
It is clear that the concerts have indeed made a tangible difference in bringing awareness to this serious matter.
The Woven Destiny Concert chose this year to help fundraise for the wonderful work that WIZO does in supporting and assisting those in Israeli society who need it most. Elizabeth is very passionate about WIZO, especially after attending the World WIZO Centennial Celebration Conference in Israel in January 2020 where she saw for herself the magnitude of the life-changing help that WIZO offers the Israeli people through their incredible facilities, ranging from shelters for abused women and houses of safety for children at risk.
Elizabeth and all the ‘Ruthies’, as she affectionately calls her Ruth Branch members, are committed to the Jewish people, committed to WIZO and committed to Israel. They seek to be a force of change and agents of love and hope.
‘’Being a Christian chairperson of a global, all Jewish women’s, Zionist organization called WIZO is stranger than fiction to say the least, but I am so thankful for the opportunity. Together with the help of my countless Christian friends, we will stand by the Jewish people and speak up for Israel. There are so many untruths and misguided beliefs out there when it comes to Israel and as antisemitism rises, I trust and thank HaShem for this ongoing formula of the Jerusalem Woven Destiny Concerts which so clearly makes a difference. For Zion’s sake, we will not remain quiet and for Jerusalem’s sake we will not remain silent’’.
When it comes to support of Israel, the “Ruthies” do not adhere to the ancient proverb “silence is golden”. As Elizabeth says, “We will not remain silent.”
About the writer:
Galya Tregenza graduated from the University of Cape Town with a post-graduate degree in Jewish Studies. She spent four years living and working in Israel in the charitable sector and several years in the UK. Currently residing in Cape Town with her husband and three daughters, Galya is a lover of Israel and works for WIZO South Africa as the National Administrator and PA to the WIZO SA President.
For those of you who missed the concert you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9-ls5qnJ5s
Any donation to the work of WIZO will be most welcome. For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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